Building Walls and Breaking Barriers

The design world loses a giant presence


Inspiration is everywhere, just look and you will see. What differentiates the great visionaries from all the others, however, is the ability to see the beauty in things that others don’t see; finding the exquisite in the mundane, the everyday and the pedestrian. Of course there’s inspiration to be found in the fantastic, the extraordinary and the unexpected. Zaha Mohammad Hadid, the Iraqi-born British architect, was a master of all three.

With the passing of Hadid on March 31, the design world lost a giant who inspired not only through her design solutions, but also through her drive to challenge the norm. I often tell my students to dare to be different, but with one caveat: You can’t be different for the sake of being different -- it has to work, and it as to make sense. In Hadid’s case, it not only worked, it paved the way for an architectural idiom that’s relevant to a new modernity.

Hadid, born in Baghdad in1950, was indeed different in both her aesthetic sensibilities, and her blurring the professional and cultural lines of social constraints. As such, she was the first woman, and the first Muslim, to receive the prestigious Pritzker Architecture Prize in 2004. In 2015, she became the first woman to be awarded Britain’s top architecture award, the RIBA Gold Medal. In her chosen profession, and in her/our culture, this is quite an accomplishment. Hadid’s work stood for itself, never defined by her gender or ethnicity.

In terms of design, she didn’t follow trends (not another Frank Gehry-inspired twist of aesthetic sensibilities) she defined her own directions. Her mellifluous flowing lines belied the bounds of rectilinear thinking, bringing a flora-like fantasy to line, mass and form. She transformed the hard edges of brick, steel and concrete into a tactile experience defined by the softness of curvilinear lines and numerous perspective points, as she defied the typical directives of architectural geometry.

Zaha Hadid will be missed not only for her design sensibilities, but also for her humanity; creating a new social aesthetic for interaction and equality.

Posted on April 22, 2016 .